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How to Treat International Visitors at US Trade Shows

Visitors from abroad who attend trade shows here in the U.S. are usually higher level management and executives with a greater level of authority and responsibility for their companyís buying decisions. But understanding their business and interpersonal protocols can be a problem since the U.S. trade show exhibitor is often unfamiliar with foreign customs.

Business etiquette varies from country to country which compounds the domestic trade show exhibitorís dilemma. It is, therefore, important to learn how to deal with foreign visitors on an individual basis to properly engage and sell to them at your trade show display.

According to Matt Hill, an exhibit staff trainer and president of The Hill Group, in San Jose, California, in order to engage and qualify international trade show booth visitors, your trade show booth staff needs to master the following people skills. They are:

Do some research ahead of time on the business and social protocols that you will expect to see at the trade show.

Be polite and sensitive to the trade show visitorís conduct.
Be mindful of the trade show visitorís individual mannerisms. Be careful to notice how long they hold eye contact and how they greet you, whether with a bow of handshake. Respond in kind and do not overdo a bow or make prolonged eye contact.

Keep the Proper Distance
Personal space varies. Different cultures have different norms for physical proximity. In the U.S. when youíre having a one on one conversation, the personal space is usually between 18 and 30 inches. Other countries may have a different idea of how far or close to stand. Your trade show booth staff should be aware that their foreign trade show guests may stand closer than normal.

Establish a relationship first, and then do business
Many international business executives prefer to establish strong personal relationships prior to doing business. Respect this protocol and have your trade show exhibit staff engage in getting to know their trade show exhibit guests on a personal basis prior to beginning the business cycle.

Introduce your international trade show booth visitors to your top ranking executives in your trade show exhibit. Many foreign visitors expect to meet the highest ranking executives first. Also, out of respect, be sure to read their business cards front and back and hold with both hands.

Avoid colloquialisms. Metaphors, sports analogies, slang and regional expressions are confusing to the international trade show guest and often do not translate well.

Hill has conducted trade show trainings for many companies for shows around the world and close by to home at the Henry J Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Convention Centers in Santa Clara and San Jose. He has trained Silicon Valley companies headquartered in Fremont, Hayward, Cupertino, Milpitas, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose and beyond to Sacramento and throughout Northern California.

He believes that developing people skills for your trade show booth staff is essential in dealing successfully with international trade show visitors. The more you understand your foreign trade show visitorís customs, the better your chances for business success. Your primary goal is to have every visitor to your trade show booth have a positive experience.

About the Author: Dick Wheeler is President of Professional Exhibits & Graphics, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with a showroom in Sacramento. Firm is full-service premiere trade show exhibit, graphics and management services company.

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